An 18-year-old from Golden Valley was charged this week with starting a three-alarm fire in St. Paul with no clear criminal record that destroyed a warehouse on Selby Avenue in August.
Luis Adrian Rodriguez was charged in Ramsey County District Court with second-degree arson and negligent fire through a summons. The damage to the building was estimated at “thousands of dollars in value,” the allegations say.
When confronted by St. Paul police, Rodriguez said, “he regretted starting the fire and wanted to take all responsibility,” the complaint states.
On Saturday, August 21, at 5:43 p.m. firefighters answered a 911 call and found massive flames coming from a large industrial complex. The affected buildings have the addresses of 1400 Dayton Avenue, 1415 Selby Avenue and 1427 Selby Avenue.
It took 86 firefighters about a day to put out the fire, partly because one of the buildings had a large amount of piled tires that were difficult to put out.
Police were braked when a witness working for a nearby company said he saw a black sedan parked near the address and saw five male teens carrying white grocery bags exit the vehicle and idly. On Mill Road, walk west under the Selby Avenue bridge. He thought it was suspicious, so he wrote the license plate of the vehicle. He also produced police surveillance video of the incident.
Investigators contacted the owner of the vehicle who said his teenage son was using the car that day. When the police confronted the son, he said, “he knew why they were there,” the complaint said.
The son told police the names of the other teenagers in the car that day – Rodriguez, an 18-year-old, a 17-year-old, and Rodriguez’s younger brother. The five had exited with the intention of locating the buildings, he said, as they entered the warehouse through an unsecured overhead garage door at the west end of the building. According to the allegations, Rodriguez brought a lighter and found boxes full of paper.
Rodriguez first set fire to an envelope and then a box. Another teenager threw more papers at the fire. The fire grew rapidly and got out of control. The group fled without calling 911, the complaint said. One of the teenagers said he saw fire trucks reacting to the scene as they were driving away.
There were no casualties in the fire.
Rodriguez’s next court date is November 1.